Damned Otto Korekt. That was a Thai Poh. An alphabetical keyination finger bumble. I, of course, shot the Sheriff but have no idea who it was wot done in the Deputy.
This, it must be said, is a really crap post.
Apologies – I can resist everything except temptation. A good (bad) blog-post title just cannot be put down once it has been picked up.
Anyway. Whatever. Let us proceed with the matter at hand.
All service areas are equal, but some are far more equal than others.
Someone blocked the Elsan point at the freshly-renovated and freshly-re-opened Nantwich Services – and it wasn’t me! I was just the poor schmuck who found the problem (and who then had to report it to They Who (Must Be Obeyed), the Canal & River Trust chaps. As with that time when I was discovered standing over a body and holding a knife, the assumption of guilt that surrounds one in these circumstances is palpable.
As counterpoint to the usual scenic canal/cow/tree/sunrise/sunset the lead photograph is not just of a typical Elsan point – the sluice where cassettes may be emptied – but of a blocked Elsan point. Enjoy!
“Water” to the brim of the sluice (see lead photo) is not a favourable sign.
In homes of the bricksandmortar variety all services are generally laid on for you, piped and wired and delivered invisibly and automatically at the flush of a light-switch or the tug of a tap chain. Not so in boats. In boats what you use you bring aboard manually and then you take it away again manually. Coal sacks, rubbish and recycling bags (not many facilities for that at all), water hosepipes and toilet cassettes.
Service areas and especially Elsan points all vary in layout and design. Some are spotless, one or two make even a seasoned cassette-shaker recoil in horror. This one, because it has the tap in the wrong place and thus no way to rinse everything down, is sliding quickly into a state of daylight slummery. The tap ought to be over the sluice, and it ought to have a short length of hosepipe fitted to it, the better to direct water around the place and to reach the parts that the flush just doesn’t reach.
In answer to your unspoken question (your parents lied to you when you were a child; I can hear what you are thinking, and so can everyone else) – yes, I do need to have a long and hot shower as soon as possible after doing this job in order to feel respectable and vaguely humanoid again.
There is a strict order in which I undertake my jobs at a service area.
First job is to get the hosepipe out and begin refilling the main tank – the water that I use for washing and showering and laundry and stuff. Passing Jobsworths and Resident Nosey-Buggers all like to see a hosepipe in use whenever a boat is moored on a service point. It’s the only sign that they understand, and the only way to forestall their reaching for the “the court of social media” upon which to castigate one. If you don’t have a hosepipe in use – and preferably a yellow hosepipe to make it obvious – then you must be eating raw puppies or strangling disabled, orphaned kittens or something.
Then I refill the water-carriers that I use to hold my potable water. The water in the main tank is perfectly fine, and I do drink it and cook with it on occasion if stretching the Cardinal’s endurance, but generally I keep about sixty litres in little food-grade water cans. This is for coffee and everything of that ilk.
No ilk were harmed during the writing of this blog post.
Then I walk any rubbish or – living more in hope than in reality – any recycling to the necessary skips and bins.
Then I deal with the Elsan (toilet) cassettes and then I scrub my little handy-pandies in the manner of a surgeon about to amputate someone’s head. The hosepipe at this stage is generally still filling the main tank, so using lots and lots and lots of hot water is not a problem on this job. Soap scrub wash rinse, soap scrub wash rinse and repeat, repeat, repeat.
Only then do I go back and deal with the water hosepipe, screwing the cap back on the tank and winding in and sometimes rinsing off the hose itself before plugging the ends and stowing it back on the well deck (at the front).
After visiting a service area there then follows a most pleasant but all too brief sense of well-being – all tanks that ought to be empty are empty (when the sluice isn’t blocked, at least) and all tanks that ought to be full are full.
It is difficult to describe the satisfaction of the sensation. The nearest that I think most of you will come to recognising the feeling is to remind you of the way that you always do your laundry stark naked, so that once it’s done there is nothing in or even to go in the laundry basket.
In summer there are often queues at service areas and it can on occasion take a certain amount of “Jog on, Doris” to stand your ground and take the time (albeit as brief a time as possible) to do all that a chap needs to do. As with wheeled vehicular transport so with boats; some folk think that they own not only the road but also the patch of tarmac (or water or towpath) that you are parked or moored on.
There are many, many fine conversational gambits that I use shamelessly if someone attempts to chivvy me at a service area.
Them: ‘Are you not done yet?’
Me: ‘Oh, near Basingstoke, I think, although most were destroyed during the war.’
Them: ‘Is your tank still not full? We want to get to Calais by noon today.’
Me: ‘You do know that Jesus loves you in spite of everything, don’t you? Shall we take a knee, hold hands and pray together?’
Them: ‘There’s only one of you and lots of us – get out of our way.’
Me: ‘I am a professional podiatric proctologist.’
Me: ‘Which means that if you don’t shut up, back off and wait quietly until I tell you when I am done I am fully qualified, legally licensed and really quite liable to shove my booted foot right up your…’
I may not be officially certified in the martial arts, but I do know Berserk and how to use it.
Generally though, the mood is more sociable. Boaters exchange views on toilets (cassette, pump-out, or composting), the best types of hosepipe (solid or expanding crinkly) and how common it is to see non-boating folk in large white Ford Transit vans abusing the rubbish skips by fly-tipping (and always followed immediately by boaters getting the blame as dispensed from official quarters). Those topics, and the weather, are the it of it for conversation generally. Oh – MiFi aerials and methods of heating sometimes get a look-in too. But that’s it. It’s enough. The canals aren’t usually very deep and one ought not to expect we canal boaters to be any deeper.
Service areas are quite literally “watering holes” although, like those on the Serengeti, they are also best avoided at dusk, when the real weirdos come out to play.
Now, enough of practicalities, let’s enter the “should you feed ducks and swans bread” fray by posting a photograph of a cygnet eating an apple. With just a beak and nothing with which to hold the apple while he took a bite, it was a bit of work. This one managed to eat two large apples that were floating in the canal, and it seemed to relish them.
The photo is a bit dodgy because it was taken through the glass of the Cardinal’s windows, I didn’t want to open the side-hatch and scare the beast off his meal.
Both apples were entirely whole when he began.
This will be one swan with healthy teeth.
I should mention at this point that I do not like swans one little bit and I never feed them. Swans are all very fine floating about at some distance on a Corporation Park pond, but if you’ve ever had to share a towpath with them for more than five seconds you’ll know that they are filthy (literally so), insanely territorial and violent with it. They also have no dignity or self-respect whatsoever, and are the biggest beggars on the canals.
No, give me a nice, self-reliant and independent moorhen any day.
For one thing, moorhens sound like stepped-upon squeaky dog-toys, and have ridiculously over-sized feet. I feel a certain aural and physical empathy where moorhens are concerned.
On that, less sluice-related note, chin-chin for the moment.